Monday, 26 April 2010

World Cup round 1 at Dalby Forest, UK

Wow, what an experience this past weekend was. That’s what it was really, an experience. At these first few world cups I’m not really chasing a result, finishing the race or being in the top 100 would be nice but essentially it’s all about learning the way.

My first taste of the talent these international stars have was in the Dalby Pro Sprint Eliminator. This race was a new concept designed to bring the racing to the audience. It certainly succeeded with about 100 of the world best mountain bikers taking to the start line of an urban circuit around Pickering town centre. Taking place on Friday night crowds lined the course whilst sampling the array of restaurants, bars and pubs that were open. The circuit itself started at the top of the climb on the high street, it then descended into a tight left hand corner before climbing up to another left hand corner. The loop then lead the riders through a cobbled grave yard, down a set of stairs, and over a small ramp. It then once again climbed before turning through someone’s garden, down a gravel road and back out onto tarmac before reaching the high street climb for the final sprint.

Each rider had to qualify for the finals by time trialing around the course and setting the best time they possibly could. Qualifying for the finals to represent team TORQ was Lee, Ant, and myself. In the finals 4 riders raced against each other with the top 2 finishers progressing to the next round. Unfortunately after hanging around in the holding area with no rollers or turbo trainer to keep warm my legs weren’t very well prepared to race against riders from the Cannondale Factory team and Merida Multivan team. Also in this round was British rider Steve James who went on to collect 3rd place on the junior world cup podium the next day. The 2 international riders quickly jumped away from us Brits, their acceleration left us stunned and we were unable to pull back the gap. Ant also suffered against the amazing power these riders hold. Lee Cragie on the other hand progressed all the way to the women’s final beating many world class riders along the way, she would eventually finish 4th just off the podium.

After a few days practising the world cup course in Dalby Forest it was time to finally line up for my first world cup. I was gridded 164th, however the grid position didn’t mean much when over half the field jumped forward from their grid with a minute to go. Once the gun went the carnage began, unfortunately the singletrack came just too soon and the field hadn’t spread out leading to massive bottlenecks. These delays in the singletrack continued for the first couple of laps, eventually however the riders spaced out and the lap times improved. I suffered mid race after crashing and twisting my saddle, this meant I couldn’t sit down for a couple of laps therefore loosing time and using up energy that I should have been saving for the end of the race. The race was 6 laps but unfortunately I was pulled out of the race after 5 laps because of the 80% rule, I was disappointed I wasn’t allowed to finish the race but my body was pretty knackered by that point anyway. My finishing position was 138th, certainly not very impressive but I had an amazing time, and now cant wait till next weekend where I’ll be racing round 2 in Houffalize, Belgium. Thanks for all the support from those of you who travelled up to watch and those of you who sent kind messages.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Prep for WC 1 at Dalby

Sorry about the lack of updates over the last week. My laptop stopped working Thursday last week so I’ve struggled to get online other than via my phone. Not long to go now till the first World Cup of the year, round 1 at Dalby takes place this weekend. The team is also taking part in the Pro Sprint Eliminator around Pickering on Friday night, should be great fun, getting proper excited, should be an awesome weekend.

With this volcano disrupting air travel its unknown quiet who will be on the start line. The entry list however is here
Unfortunately the Australia side of the TORQ team have already confirmed that they will not make it to the UK for the weekend, so disappointed for them. Would have been amazing to have the whole team together, guess we’ll have to wait till Houffalize next week.

The race bike is going into the shop tomorrow for its final tune up before the weekend. Quite interested just to see just how quick this thing can climb up some decent climbs, on the small short sharp climbs locally here it’s a true mountain goat.
Few adjustments + the bike will be ready for wc1 on Twitpic

Keep an eye on my twitter feed as I’ll try my best to keep you updated with photos over the weekend. If your at Dalby watching the race please come and say hello.

Friday, 9 April 2010

British XC Series Round 1 Sherwood Pines

Sherwood Pines kick started the 2010 British Mountain Bike Series into action on the 27th and 28th of March. The venue was a hive of activity all weekend with the launch of the new demo series, team relay Saturday night, and the main event on Sunday. With the TORQ RV situated within the arena, the new shiny equipment on show, and the team gathered together for the first time we launched ourselves into what will be 6 months of excitement. The season runs now until the curtain closer at the end of September with the TORQ Performance team in action most weekends.

The course at Sherwood is pretty much pan flat; however the pre ride revealed some new tasty technical sections. I can vouch for that having tasted the dirt during the pre ride after trying to ride too much speed through a tight right hand corner, I can assure you that TORQ bars taste far nicer! Multiple line choices, dropoffs, jumps, loose uphill blasts, and plenty of flowing singletrack were split up by painful fireroad blasts. The course provided very little time to recover with all the descents being too short to gain any rest. The tough course and the early timing of the event meant riders would be in for a tough day.

Saturdays team relay was around an arena based 2-minute circuit designed to give maximum spectator entertainment. 10 teams of 4 riders lined up at the start all itching to get their team to the top step of the podium. 1 rider would do the first lap, then tag their teammate so they could complete their lap, 8 laps in total would complete the race. There was a good atmosphere around the arena with plenty of people watching, the pressure was on! Going up against some tough competition including Billy Joe Whenman, Lee Williams, and the Orange Monkey team proved hard work on the first lap, I came into transition in 3rd, the team of Lee Cragie, Mateusz Wielgos, and James Lister did an excellent job to pull team TORQ up to 2nd position. After a strawberry flavoured TORQ recovery drink and podium presentations it was time to grab some food and prepare for Sunday.

Sunday morning revealed a fresh morning with the wind ripping through the arena. On the long fireroads around the course you certainly wouldn’t want to be riding on your own or sat on the front of the groups of riders that were likely to appear. The plan of action was to start hard attacking as high up the order as possible before the first singletrack, then to sit in the group doing as little work as possible, before finishing strong and picking off the fading riders.

Round 1 of the series was a sell out and this meant some huge categories including over 50 elite male starters with several international riders attending keen to get some racing in their legs and possibly collect some UCI world ranking points. Also in the Elite race with me was my new teammates Andy Blair, Anthony O’boyle, Sion O’boyle, Nick Collins and humpty dumpy Tim Dunford. Off the start I nailed myself but my lack of zone 6 power and lack of race efforts in my legs showed and I was struggling from the off. Having concentrated on endurance miles and longer efforts up until this race I hope to be a lot stronger by round 2. Unfortunately groups began to form and I was in the wrong place stuck behind a rider who was slower in the singletrack, this allowed the top 10 to get a gap which quickly became to big to close back down. I was left fighting for 11th place in a group of 5 or 6, included in this group was Liam Killeen who must have been binding his time. The group split up in the last few laps and I really began to struggle as the race got nearer its end, in the penultimate lap I popped a bit and was left all on my own in 15th place trying to chase back. On the last lap I could see riders ahead of me so dug deep and rode my legs off, unfortunately it wasn’t enough and after catching 14th place going into the arena I didn’t have the energy left for the sprint.

In the end I finished exhausted in 15th place having left everything out on the track. It wasn’t quite where I’d of hoped to finish but looking at the results the time difference to the top 10 wasn’t huge.

Top effort from all the team, especially James Lister who’s an endurance rider yet managed to overtake the whole sport field which included 60+ riders to finish 2nd place! That was TORQ Performance’s first national weekend, 3 podiums completed an excellent weekend of fun. Next up for me is the Southern XC this weekend.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Team Press Release

For those of you who havent seen the press release about the 2010 TORQ Performance team, here it is! This was sent out to press midway through March.

In just under 7 days time, that well known nutrition brand TORQ will be unleashing an exciting line up of talented riders ready to take on the might of international and national competition. For 2010 TORQ have raised the bar and have registered 4 pro riders with the UCI to enable them to compete at the highest levels. These select riders are Anthony O’Boyle, who is currently racing and training in Australia and first signs are that he’s already upped his game and 2010 should see him take huge strides on the international field. Next up is Tim Dunford, an experienced elite rider with years of consistent results, he hopes that 2010 with be his springboard to greater achievements. Ben Thomas is an up and coming elite rider who has showed remarkable application and already, notable pre season results are coming in thick and fast and finally Australian rider Andy Blair completes the pro line up. Blair has been a member of the Australian National Squad for many years and has many world cups to his name. Along side this uber elite TORQ squad will also be 6 other talented riders who we will watch develop and undoubtedly dominate their respective races as the year unfolds.

The creation of this has only been possible firstly with the backing of TORQ boss Matt Hart, who thoroughly embraces the new team structure says "TORQ’s Performance Mountain Bike Team is a heavily sponsored professional outfit and the objective is simple. To unite some of the countries most accomplished Mountain Bike racers into a team with unrivalled strength in depth and to set an example to everyone involved in the sport that high-end performances are achieved in symbiosis with generosity of spirit, courtesy and integrity."

As a long term supporter of grass roots mountain biking in the UK, Hart is now undoubtedly proud to be part of this big step forward for the TORQ team. Through the hard work of dedicated team manager Rob Barker the team has attracted an impressive portfolio of sponsorship that will enable them to quite literally ‘reach for the stars!’ The partnership with Kona remains strong and for this year the team will be using a customized version of the new the Kona Kilauea, the company’s first step into the carbon market. SRAM have stepped in to provide flagship XX group sets to dress the bikes, which will be topped with Rock Shox World Cup Sids to deliver a knockout machine that weighs in under an impressive 20lbs. While a whole host of other top quality sponsors fit the team out to help them on their way to achieve their aims.

Barker commented on the new TORQ outlook:
“ We will see TORQ step into the world arena with our heads held high. With a full season of both international and domestic races, TORQ aims to be a force to reckoned with at many major events and being fortunate enough to have strong army of sponsors our aim is to promote their amazing products as well as race our hearts out aiming for that top step. We will be competing at the British Mountain Bike Race Series, where we hope to dominate the Team relay event as well as perform outstandingly across all levels as well as target World Cups and many more domestic endurance team based events”

Ben Gaby marketing manager of Kona explained their involvement once again with TORQ:
'Kona Bicycles are delighted to be working with the TORQ racing team again for the 2010 season. We believe the team has the correct balance of focus and approachability, with some exceptional athletes that can tackle the diverse 2010 events calendar. The team will be riding the brand new Kona Kilauea carbon race hardtails, developed for the rigours of top mountain bike racing.

Team Line up 2010:
Andy Blair - Elite
Anthony O Boyle - Elite
Ben Thomas - Elite
Nick Collins - Elite
Sion O Boyle - Elite
Tim Dunford - Elite
Lee Craigie - Elite Woman
James Lister - Endurance
Mateusz Wielgos - Expert
Lydia Gould - Endurance

Sponsor line up:
TORQ - Nutrition
SRAM – Group sets
Rock Shox - Forks
Avid - Brakes
MET - Helmets
Kona - Framesets
Ritchey – handlebars /stems /seatposts
Super star components – Hub & Headsets
Alex Rims - Rims
Sapin - spokes
Exposure - Lights
Fizik - Saddles
Juice lubes
Lake - shoes
Jagwire - cables
Schwalbe - Tyres
Crank Bros - Pedals
Bike Box Alan – Bike boxes
Nomad Bike Washers
Stans no tubes – Tyre Sealant
Cycleops Powertaps and Trainers – Training aids
Fibrax - brakepads
Champion system – Performance clothing
Maxgear – eyewear/compression clothing/tools

Monday, 5 April 2010


Welcome to my new blog, you can also follow me on twitter as benthomas88. I’ll be trying my best to keep you updated with how training and racing in going with my new team, the UCI registered TORQ Performance Nutrition mountain bike race team.

I originally got the racing bug back in 2005 when I started my first cross-country race which was a Southern XC race at Swinley Forest. Although I didn’t do very well I thoroughly enjoyed myself and set about planning what races to travel too in 2006. After racing Junior in 2006 I moved to the sport category then next year when I became an under 23 aged rider, at the same time I moved to university in Bristol. After my first year at uni and having had some success in the sport category including some national series wins I started taking training more seriously. Having qualified for expert in 2008 I was determined to see how far I could go.

Well the latest is that I’m now in my second year racing elite category mountain biking. Racing with Olympians, World Championships quality riders, and Commonwealth medallist’s means reaching the podium is pretty darn hard work! During my first year I had mixed success but in June was offered a contract with the TORQ team, by the end of the year I’d agreed to join and had also successfully gained enough points to race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup. I’m now in training for my keys goals for the 2010 season, these include my participation in the World Cup which kicks off in the UK in just 3 weeks time, the part of the team based in the UK then plan to race the rounds in Belgium, Germany, and Italy. Its going to be an exciting year, in fact the excitement has already begun with the team launch taking place at the British Mountain Bike Series a week ago!

I hope you enjoy following my updates. You can read previous blogs written by myself on my previous teams blog here